At 01:42 AM 8/25/2011, Michael Balter wrote:
... Socialism is not something that can be achieved simply by a mass uprising and then sorting things out later, but must be the result of conscious decisions that are made before, during, and after such a revolution. We also have the example of the mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc. These are not going to lead to socialism, as I think we all realize, but simply the overthrow of dictatorships. A necessary first step, but far from the end game.

If this is true, then what is the quantity of socialist consciousness (whatever that may be), or of individuals said to be bearers of socialist consciousness, needed to achieve a qualitative change in the structure of the society?

The presumption of "consciousness," "conscious decisions," "class consciousness" and the like as some sort of prerequisite for societal transformation stumbles into quite the morass. And it is an age old dilemma that every revolutionary socialist wrestles with: Is there a critical mass (the tipping point)? Does every single worker (or whoever) need to be "conscious" for a transformation to succeed? If not, how many?

Doesn't that whole framework smack of reductionism? How to "re-frame" it?

Who determines when an individual has achieved consciousness / enlightenment?

Or, Is the consciouness of a "class" a sort of emergent property that comes into being independent of the consciousness of each individual component (worker, cell, etc.)? If so, what are the conditions for its emergence and can we (we? who's we?) make predictions from it?

A corollary question is, "Will we know it when we see it?"

Consciousness is not a passive reflection of a static totality but an active engagement with that totality of which it, itself, is dynamically a part.

Can a political party or some other institution be the repository of such consciousness? (We know that Lenin, in "What Is To Be Done?" believed that to be the case. He changed his view, somewhat, later.)

Is such consciousness "imputed" only after-the-fact, sort of like "potential energy"? (Lukacs)

Does it even matter to the outcome if it were possible for WE (or anyone) to figure this out?

Evelyn Fox Keller writes in her wonderful biography of Barbara McClintock, "one must have the time to look, the patience to 'hear what the material has to say to you,' the openness to 'let it come to you.' Above all, one must have 'a feeling for the organism.' ... a longing to embrace the world in its very being, through reason and beyond.

"For McClintock, reason - at least in the conventional sense of the word - is not by itself adequate to describe the vast complexity - even mystery - of living forms. Organisms have a life and order of their own that scientists can only partially fathom. ... The category "Organism," for McClintock, is "a code word - not simply a plant or animal ('Every component of the organism is as much of an organism as every other part') - but the name of a living form, of object-as-subject. With an uncharacteristic lapse into hyperbole, she adds: 'Every time I walk on grass I feel sorry because I know the grass is screaming at me.' " (Evelyn Fox Keller, "A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock," W.H. Freeman & Co., 1983, pp.198-200.)

There is no independent observation that stands outside and apart from what is being observed. There can be no "true" consciousness that doesn't, at the same time, enter, become part of, and transform it ... and thereby one's consciousness of what one is observing.

Including this.


Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in. 
~ Leonard Cohen